It was also reassuring to learn that the experts at Nielsen/Norman Group also confirmed many of the practices we already adopt as standard.

Here’s a useful summary of ways to make sure your email content is usable:

1. Subject lines should be treated like headlines – clear and upfront, not vague eg Sticky Content June news.

2. Always remember the people who have images turned off! Along with your subject line, people use the “Can’t read this email?” line to decide whether to open the email, so don’t fill yours with duff copy.

3. 20% of people don’t get through the subscription process, so the copy around this needs to be good. Avoid double negatives eg “If you don’t want to get emails from advertisers, don’t tick this box” and clunky phrases like “Denotes mandatory field”. (Also, lots of people failed the subscription process when they had to click on a link in an email to confirm registration – they thought the email was just a “thank you for registering” email so didn’t bother to click the link. If you’re going to use this sort of email, the copy needs to be instructional from the subject line – no “thank you”, “welcome” or “congratulations” until the process is complete!)

4. Always use the phrase “unsubscribe” or similar, not “Manage your preferences” etc.

5. When people are looking for a particular message in their inbox, they look at Sender first. When they’re looking for an item of interest, they look at subject line.

6. Don’t use a real name for the Sender if it’s not anyone well-known (Jakob Nielsen is ok, Claire Bussey is not!). You can use a real name within the copy if it adds something eg animal charity PDSA send some emails from named vets

7. Don’t repeat the Sender name in the subject line: it’s a waste. We should ask clients what Sender name they’re using when we write their subject lines.

8. Don’t force people to click through to landing pages. Give them useful snippets of info in the email with the option to read more – don’t tease them

9. Why scannability matters in email:
 

  • the average person spends less than 1.10 minutes reading an email newsletter
  • only 19% of people read the whole newsletter
  • most people skip around the content so make it clear where each item begins/ends
  • users like recognisable patterns/formats